By William Wolf

BEANPOLE  Send This Review to a Friend

Previewed at the 2019 New York Film Festival, “Beanpole,” now in commercial release, is a most unusual Russian film directed by Kantemir Balagov that takes us to Leningrad after World War II.

The film stirs my own memories of having visited Leningrad, which has since gone back to its earlier name of Saint Petersburg. A city tour took me past the vast cemetery reflecting the enormous casualties suffered in the war by Russians bravely defending the city against the massive German onslaught.

“Beanpole” surveys ways in which the war affected two surviving women. They are played by impressive actresses new to the screen, Viktoria Miroshnichenko and Vasilisa Perelygina.

The acting rules the day in this film, although the story of what is happening to the women can seem like a stretch at times. Yet the overall vision, creativity and emotional upheaval in “Beanpole” make it special.

Iya, called Beanpole (Miroshnichenko), is a tall, slender nurse who has served in the military and in 1945 is working in a hospital where war victims are being treated. The hospital is a sorry sight of affliction, and Beanpole herself is seen being revived from a seizure. She is shown to have son, Sasha, who is small and frail and appears with her at the hospital.

The story gathers momentum when we meet Masha (Perelygina), who has been a soldier and is a friend of Beanpole’s. I won’t go into the surprising course taken in the screenplay, written by director Bagalov and Alexander Terekhov, but the relationship between the women becomes the guts of the story.

Through it all we get the reflection of the human toll that the war took and the upheaval it brought to so many lives as symbolized by this particular situation and relationship. This take on the aftermath differs from what we have seen in other Russian films, and that originality, fueled by the extraordinary acting, makes “Beanpole” very worthwhile. A Kino Lorber release. Reviewed January 29, 2020.


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